I – Xerox/Fax
You close your eyes in New York, and open them in Moscow. The waiting chamber is a pastiche of contemporary kitsch, with grace-notes of pretention. You wash and dress in a small boudoir with ample mirrors, maybe touch your face, run your hands through your hair, piss. After half an hour, a small light turns from red to green. The door opens – at it a smiling customs agent.
The agent seems more a lingering formality than anything else – the residue of antiquated bureaucratic procedures, an ambassador of empty ritual. Like all agents, mine is defined by a certain circularity. Round-faced, round-bellied, even his speech evinces an Ouroborian aura, not entirely out of place considering everything has already been downloaded in the transfer protocols. Redundant, but not entirely unnecessary.
II – Copy/Paste
Touch, fingers to glass, the metrolet capsule suspended several hundred meters above an expanse of networks, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatic, structural, infrastructural, informatic, etc. The vast body of Moscow anatomically exposed, like a great dissected organism, breathing. These familiar fingers, biosynth extremities; this replicant, corpse, myself, an inhabitant of my own simulacrum.
From here, Moscow appears an exercise of chroma in time, a constructivist composition, decaying, birthing, the fluctuating flutterings of life; the great social condenser laid bear; a cartography of systems. The descent begins, depth, surrounded by the intricate arachnean web-work of transecting tracery, down to the old Stalinist metro, long abandoned by all, but those the likes of whom nobody acknowledges knowing. Ancient glory, long abandoned to time, rats and undesirables.
Yuri reclines in a deep calf-skin sofa, flanked by what appear to be twins, the kind of long-limbed, platinum-haired, porcelain-eyed beauties for which Russia is infamous. Fabricants, manufactured prostitutes, with only a modicum of consciousness downloaded, enough to please, but little more, a vocabulary of flattery and moans. Yuri specializes in high-end fabricants, designed by spec to please his customers; mostly virgins with life-spans only long enough to complete the transaction and send the John packing, before they’re broken down to base bio-genetic sequences for recombination.
He gives me one of his famous gilded smiles, “Anton!” Ascending, three kisses and back between his whores before his vodka sweats. “Mitya, pajaliusta, a glass and good whisky for my American friend.” Lap-dog slugs off, fish-eyed; different from last, the ambling gate of a country boy. Yuri turns mischievously to the fabricant on his right, “This one, no whores, ponimayish?” She nods, blankly, as Yuri turns to me, “Why is this? Maybe girls are not interesting. I have boys too, moi droog. Anything for Anton.”
“I’m here on business.”
“Typical. Always business with you Americans. You have no passion. You do not know life, only work, and when work is done, you die.”
The glass and whisky arrive. It is good whisky. “Do you have it?”
“Konichna, yist,” He hands his sobaka an ancient iPhone 4, nodding at me. “Zaftra… Tomorrow. And you?”
III – Text/Edit
Antiquated protocols, obsolete technologies, tools of the trade. Nobody thinking to look; like books, things for museums and collectors and the underground. At 12:01 AM, I receive a text; a poem, Mayakovski’s “Ne Zakonchil,” his suicide note. Code, without a key. I send a selfie of myself, thumbs up, smiling. 12:02: “OMFG. Luv this :)” The cypher, typical Yuri.
Back in the 22nd century, some sick fuck decided that Lenin’s reincarnation would presage the ascension; a mystic vision from the channeled spirit of Rasputin, or some such nonsense. Unfortunately, this particular proselyte also happened to be closely related to the then current president. Efforts were made, the Movzoley Lenina ransacked for DNA, and a bio-chemical monstrosity manufactured. It did not long trespass upon this Earth.
There was ramped speculation regarding the impermanence of souls, their transfiguration and transportation to heaven, the perversion of spiritual implantation, nature versus nurture, bad genomics, decay, and the effects of preservation. The dream did not dwindle, it only passed into a posture of self-reflection. There have been four public attempts since, and countless private ones.
Genetic duplication is not reincarnation. The soul still too ephemeral for scientific analysis, more a matter for metaphysics and witch-doctors. Consciousness download, the key, blank-slate replicants imbued with the mind of their primary. The brain, a physical mnemonic membrane in which all experiences are etched. To graph consciousness is an exercise in intaglio printing, simple enough where templates still exist, each pressing lighter.
It has taken two centuries to re-construct Lenin’s brain; re-encoded, an atheistic messiah golem; the second-coming, calibrated to the whim of an awaiting dictator. All of this from a poem and an encrypted emoticon. You have to give it to Yuri, he knows what he’s doing.
IV – Error/508
28 hours left on this body. 16 to hack and re-route, an infinite loop. Recursion gone wrong, equals, equals, equals. I don’t dabble in metaphysics. Death is a reprieve for the fortunate; 287 years tomorrow.
Irena Ivanovna Shilinina. Things got complicated. It was a long time ago. Probably not long enough.
She still possesses the same majesty, tall, thin, anguished without reason, driven without purpose, a painful beauty, alluring because unpredictable, mercurial like a mercenary. She never wants much for long. It’s her nature.
“Nice body, new?”
“Sto hotish?” The question, cold, but pointed. She will know if I’m lying.
“I’m here to kill Lenin.”
“What? Again?” Wide-eyed, sarcastic.
“Can I come in?”
“Konichno, why not, old times, and such.”
The cell is almost void, except for a few personal tchotchkes amidst a wasteland of impersonal ephemera. A crystalline sphere hovering, tenuously tethered to the earth, to Moscow. “Vodka?”
She sits too near; there is an emptiness to her touch; there is no trust, nor intimate promise, only an artificial proximity premised on an ambiguous past. Her thigh against mine, the smell of her breath, aged, like a fine wine, gone bitter. “So, shall we begin again?”
“So serious,” frowning. “Tak, you want to kill Lenin, and you want my help.”
“You know what messiahs bring.”
“How many bodies have you had? 20? 30? 100?”
“I’ve lost count.”
“Why you, and so few else?”
“Because I’m useful.”
She laughs, tipping her head back, “’Prove it.’ To you? Are you the God to whom I answer?”
“No, no, no. You desire, but cannot give. You want to kill a dead man. You think you are the only one worthy immortality?”
“I don’t have the luxury.”
“But you know the consequences.”
“Ya nichivo ne znau, I don’t know anything!”
Flirtatious, the stroke of hair, and cheek, chest and thigh, almost natural, familiar.
“You want to take immortality for a spin, it’s all yours. Kill Lenin, live forever.”
“However you wish. I’ll make the arrangements, and fax them tomorrow – you have a fax?”
“1 hour, a messenger.”
V – Heart of a Dog
I ask Yuri if I can borrow his sobaka. In an hour Mitya arrives, dutifully downcast, morose in a 19th century sort of way. Akaky without his coat. Old-style android, sturdy machinery, a throw-back to the 23nd century civic strife between engorged city centers and vast agrarian sectors, rebelling, following a romantic futility only found left lingering in rural districts, distant from the corrosive skepticism of urbanity. Plants, designed to mimic perfectly the dialects and mannerisms of specific regions, infiltrate, inform, and occasionally assassinate. Yuri must have found him abandoned in some scrap heap. The perfect stooge.
I hand Mitya a hand-written message, “Maya lubimaya, Ya vas lubil, lublu, eschyo, byte mozhit, etc.” The poem is one of Irena’s favorites. All she needs to do is place the letter close enough to Lenin’s recreated corpse, and active the nanite bugs in the ink. Mitya reads the missive, “Pushkin?” “Da.” “Typichno…” I watch him, interested. “Now Essenin, tak – poet!” Of course, old programming, Pushkin would be too bourgeois for agrarian revolutionaries. I smile, “Konishna, but the woman loves Pushkin, so what am I to do?” “Find a new woman with better taste.” Humor, from an android… interesting, never knew they were programmed for it.
I laugh, and send Mitya on his ambling way.
VI – Tatlin’s Tower
Visit Tatlin’s Tower, tea, the slow turn of the upper-tier restaurant revealing a cinematic landscape of networks, the new transposed on the old, kept care of, Red Square a diminutive spec in the megacity, almost overwhelmed by a sparse body of crystalline towers transecting space and time, the perpetual furor of a frozen city at Earth’s end, onion-domes dancing amidst travel tubes and the irregular geometries of the new city.
Irena walks in, I pull out her chair, “How gallant!” she says, smiling, tired.
“You got my message?”
“Very nostalgic, the poem, this restaurant.”
“And our friend?”
“He appreciates the sentiment, but not to his taste.”
I download Irena’s transit protocols and permissions. In a month, she will be in New York, the tragedy of the most recent attempt at Lenin’s reincarnation will be broadcast, excuses will be made, analysis compiled, and new attempts made. She will have her immortality, for as long as she wants it, which given her predilection for malaise may not be for as long as she thinks. We finish our tea, with promises predestined to be broken.
The metrolet provides one last god’s eye glance of majestic Moscow, before I alight at the station. My old custom’s agent greets me. Checks for any irregularities. Content, he guides me to my chamber, where I recline, awaiting upload.